Insights and Analysis

Expanding the Power of Public Libraries Across the Philippines

November 18, 2009

By Reynald S. Ocampo

The National Library of the Philippines stands in the center of Manila as a grand monument and national resource center to the country’s hero José Rizal, a doctor, writer, reformist, and proclaimed hero of the Philippine Revolution. Formally observed as the National Library in 1901, the library moved into its existing building, inaugurated by President Ramon Magsaysay’s successor, Carlos P. Garcia, on Rizal’s 100th birthday 60 years later.

From its humble beginning over 100 years ago, The National Library has grown to become a dedicated institution, tasked to manage 1,238 affiliated public libraries across the Philippines composed of one regional public library and four congressional, 49 provincial, 101 city, 577 municipal, and 506 Barangay or public community libraries throughout the country. All these libraries rely mostly on private donations and on various organizations for diversifying and increasing their collections. Unfortunately, many public libraries in the Philippines face severe shortages in reading materials, trained librarians, and little support from local governments. This has affected the quality of the public libraries, including the National Library.

In an effort to try to improve them and to support activities that promote education and promote literacy, the National Library invited librarians from across the Philippines to participate in its annual National Seminar of Public Librarians.


City librarians from Pagadian City convey thanks to Asia Foundation representatives for the books they received.

At this year’s seminar in early November, when The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program representatives arrived, a crowd of 600 started cheering and yelling in excitement. They were there to donate 18,000 new books to representatives of 460 libraries across the country as well as to the National Library collection in an effort to expand and improve access to educational materials.


Public librarians cheer as Books for Asia Director in the Philippines Efren Balajadia delivers a speech at the closing ceremony of the seminar.

One city librarian who attended, Ms. Samuela Oceña from Pagadian City remarked that: “We are overwhelmed for the books we have received from The Asia Foundation. The books are very useful to our poor communities especially to the students of elementary, high school and colleges who are deprived of good books.”

Since 1954, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has distributed over 13 million books and journals to public and private institutions across the Philippines. The program works diligently to provide books to all three of the island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, addressing the resource needs from across the country. Read more.

Reynald S. Ocampo is The Asia Foundation’s Assistant Program Officer for the Foundation’s Books for Asia program in the Philippines. He can be reached at [email protected].

Related locations: Philippines
Related programs: Books for Asia


About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

InAsia is posted and distributed every other Wednesday evening, Pacific Time. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].


For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected]

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223